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Bertolucci and Penna: intertwining of poetry, prose and visual arts


Tuesday, 5 November 2019 to Wednesday, 27 May 2020
Total hours: 40
Hours of lectures: 40

Examination procedure

  • Report or seminar


The course aims to retrace some of the decisive steps in the evolution of the literary works of Attilio Bertolucci and Sandro Penna in light of both the Italian culture and the international context, focusing on the dialogue that these two authors, to be considered among the main protagonists of the 20thcentury, had with authors from the past as well as their contemporaries.

On the one hand, their early carriers will be analyzed by combining the different factors that contributed to the birth of Bertolucci and Penna as poets and writers: inspiration, education, personal encounters, stylistic work, historical and private context.

On the other hand, the gradual construction of the poetical identities of these two authors will be investigated with regard to their strong link with the visual arts, which played an important role in that process in terms of hermeneutics and style.

In particular, hidden and previously unsurveyed relationships between writers and artists will cast light on the least known details of the works by these two poets – for example, Naturalism and American Abstract Expressionism for Bertolucci and Scuola Romana for Penna – pointing out correlations that in some cases intrinsically connect the art of the 20thcentury with its literature. This deep investigation will deal not only with theoretical aspects, but also focus on the texts and other tangible resources. 

Educational goals:

Level I

Place within a historical and literary context the studied works and the biographies of the two authors.

Develop knowledge and hermeneutical skills in understanding the meaning of a single poem as well as a collection of poems by the same author.

Develop knowledge and basic proficiency in the technical, stylistic and rhythmic analysis of the texts. 

Identify intertextual sources in the creation of a poem.

Identify formal differences and common themes comparing different authors.


Level II

Comment on a single poem in the context of the entire collection of poems. 

Investigate the relationship between poetry and prose, poetry and translation, writing and visual arts.

Investigate the relationship between the public and private dimensions of 20thcentury poetry.

Bibliographical references

A. Bertolucci, Opere, a cura di P. Lagazzi e G. Palli Baroni, I Meridiani, Mondadori, Milano 1997.

S. Penna, Poesie, prose e diari, a cura e con un saggio introduttivo di R. Deidier, cronologia a cura di E. Pecora, I Meridiani, Mondadori, Milano 2017.

A. Bertolucci R. Tassi, Tra due città. Lettere 1951-1995, a cura di E. Donzelli, MUP, il mulino, Bologna 2019 (in uscita a novembre).

S. Sereni, Un mondo migliore. Ritratti, Bompiani, Milano 2019.

A. Bertolucci, Il fuoco e la cenere. Versi e prose dal tempo perduto, a cura di P. Lagazzi e G. Palli Baroni, Diabasis, Parma 2014.

C. Garboli, Penna Papers, Garzanti, Milano seconda ed. accresciuta 1996 (I ed. 1984) - il libro è fuori commercio, verranno distribuiti questi e altri materiali durante le lezioni.